So, what were the first words out of Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz’s mouth when a Metro Spirit reporter asked him the reason behind his resignation this week?
“This is all good,” Azziz said. “This is all positive.”
Spin. Spin. Spin.
It was as if the members of Azziz’s public relations team were deputies parked alongside a horrendous crash in the middle of the interstate, waving motorists on while shouting, “Move along, folks! Nothing to see here!”
According to Azziz, it was his decision to submit his letter of resignation to the Georgia Board of Regents on Thursday with the understanding that he would stay on as president of GRU until June 30.
“It is the right time,” Azziz told the Metro Spirit. “Five years as the change agent is plenty. We’ve done 20 years of work in five years and, so really, my family and I felt this was the right decision.”
Well, it was definitely the “right time” for someone, but it may not have been Azziz’s choice like he has tried to portray.
Most people know by now that it was reported late Friday that Azziz will receive a $1.1 million package paid by both the University System of Georgia and Georgia Regents Health System.
That’s a pretty sweet deal, and no one in the Garden City really believes that is a big “thank you” present for Azziz for all his hard work.
That’s basically a settlement agreement.
GRU can call it a “transition plan” or whatever it wants, but it’s a plan to no longer have Azziz as president of GRU.
So, Azziz didn’t simply decide to joyfully ride off into the sunset with hopes of returning to his main loves of teaching, writing and conducting research like he told reporters on Thursday.
Instead, Azziz was quietly shown the door.
Azziz and his public relations teams at GRU can spin it however they want, but no one gets a $670,000 “education leave” salary and a one-time payment of $470,000 when they independently decide to leave a job.
And the proof? The Augusta Chronicle’s Tom Corwin reported on Friday that if Azziz accepts “full-time employment” somewhere else besides GRU, his “paid educational leave granted under this policy shall terminate.”
The university system is paying him to step down from his position as president.
It sounds like he can stay on as a faculty member if he chooses, but if he packs his bags and leaves GRU, he can’t take that $670,000 “education leave” pay with him.
So, why didn’t Azziz face the music and openly talk about the truth behind his resignation?
Pride? Who knows, but it was a bad move on his part.
After all, he knew that $1.1 million agreement was going to be made public.
Unlike the private business world, such documents — especially, the amount paid to an exiting official in a separation agreement — are subject to open record laws.
So, now all of Augusta knows that Azziz was bending the truth when he acted as if he was the one who decided to leave his position.
Of course, the question becomes: Now, what?
Will Azziz suddenly become the most hated man in Augusta?
Oh wait. He’s been there. Done that.
All Azziz has to do is grin and bear it for the next six more months and quietly fade away with a big check in his pocket.
Spin. Spin. Spin.